BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS COURTESY OF LEBANON VALLEY COLLEGE
Sam Light came to Lebanon Valley College to get an education, play in front of the hometown fans and to win a championship. As he has approached those goals, Light has discovered something totally unexpected about himself, the teammates who became his friends and the game of basketball in general.
Ahh, the beauty of the college experience.
Light, a prolific senior guard out of Northern Lebanon, is at the top of the home stretch of what has turned into a rewarding college basketball career at LVC. It is one he will complete over the next couple of months with few regrets.
That is as much a tribute to Light’s maturation as it is the training and nurturing he has received at Lebanon Valley College.
“I know it’s going to happen,” said Light of the impending end, “but I’m not worried about it. It’s just a phase in life. It’s not something that defines me as a person. But I love basketball.
“I have more games in than 85 to 90 percent of the population,” added Light. “So it’s like a blessing.”
Light is averaging 23 points per game for a Flying Dutchmen squad battling for supremacy in the MAC’s Commonwealth Conference.
Light is shooting 47 percent from the field, 44 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the foul stripe. He and the Flying Dutchmen are currently 11-5 overall, 5-2 in the conference and a game out of first place.
“My expectations coming into the season were to take it one game at a time,” said Light. “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. But this season is about winning. We’re an older team. We need to win the close games. We have five losses and two of those we shouldn’t have lost.
“Myself personally, I’m just trying to lead the team,” continued Light. “I’m not a vocal person. But I need to communicate with my teammates. That’s where I can get better. I just want to make a play that affects the game. It’s not just about scoring.”
For those who have followed Light’s career since high school, the changes have been numerous and profound, both on and off the court. He is more at ease with himself – as a player and a person – he’s a more cerebral and less emotional individual and he allows the game to come to him more.
“I’ve just matured, knowing when to talk, when to speak your mind and when to listen,” said Light. “I’ve matured as a player. When you’re a freshman, you don’t have expectations. When you get older you realize time is running out and you’ve got to be more focused.
“In high school, I was good, but I wasn’t a killer,” Light continued. “Playing with dudes who are in your face all the time, they taught me how to be a killer. Now I’m 100 percent focused on dominating other teams, even though we don’t always do it. When I was younger, I would play hard, but I wouldn’t really try to dominate.”
Coming out of Northern Lebanon, LVC wasn’t his first college choice.
Light matriculated to Division Two Millersville University, where he discovered the fit just wasn’t quite right. In many ways, transferring to Lebanon Valley was coming home.
“It was just some personal reasons,” said Light. “I wanted to transfer to Lebanon Valley. I didn’t pick the cheapest or highest level in Lebanon Valley, but it was close to home. I wanted to have my family see me play. I liked the environment.
“That (LVC’s potential to be ultra-competitive) was huge,” added Light. “All the schools I was looking at had a championship level. You can just tell when teams have pieces. I wanted to be a piece of a puzzle. And right now, we’re figuring that puzzle out.”
Light is Northern Lebanon High School’s all-time leading scorer. But at the scholastic level, Light’s game was rough, unrefined and at times one-dimensional.
“In high school, I just wanted to play basketball,” said Light. “I wanted to use it as a tool to get the cheapest education possible. I wanted to use it as a bank roll. Even though I wasn’t a scholarship-caliber player, I wanted to get money to play basketball.
“I just wanted to play at the highest level (he could), and I had a scholarship there (Millersville),” Light added. “My goal was to leave it all on the floor. I was trying to keep my grades up and make my parents happy.”
To complete the story book, Lebanon Valley would have to win the Commonwealth Conference championship and advance to next month’s NCAA Division Three tournament. And while Light continues to chase that dream, it is with his feet firmly planted in reality.
“I didn’t come to lose,” said Light. “But it’s not championship or bust. There’s more to life. But when I step between the lines, I’m trying to win.
“My job is to just keep people cool,” continued Light. “Last year, we were old, but we were young. I’m just trying to keep everybody calm. I want to use my energy, and keep people in the game. The psychological part is where I’m getting better.”
Though he’s not looking forward to the end of his playing days, Light seems very content with who he has become as a person. He has even allowed himself to look beyond the game.
“Yeah, I’m happy,” said Light. “I have friends and family. I’m doing well in school. I’m going to graduate on time. It couldn’t get much better than it is.
“I think about coaching,” Light added. “I think about maybe being a referee, reffing on the PIAA or college level. That would be cool. But I’m not sure.”
And that’s OK. He’ll figure it out as he goes.
Middle Atlantic Conference
Commonwealth Conference Standings